RACIAL KILLINGS NOT TOO BIG A DEAL.
Jill Leovy, the LA Times crime reporter and homicide blogger, made what has to be one of the oddest observations I've ever read in our hometown paper of record. Her claim is that racial animosity is not driving the homicide rate up to any significant degree. Leovy made a calculation based on homicides in four LAPD Divisions - Shootin' Newton, Southwest, Southeast and 77th. The murders in those Divisions totaled 236. Of that number "just 22" were between Blacks and Latinos as either shooter or victim. That represents roughly 10% of the total. The other 90% involved shooters and victims of the same race or ethnic group. In her opinion, that small percentage really doesn't amount to a huge problem.
While no one would want to accuse the LA Times of cherry picking facts, a more accurate barometer would have included not only other LAPD Divisions such as Northeast, West Valley and Mission but also other towns in the greater LA area like Pomona, Colton, San Bernardino, and Riverside. An even finer tuning of the data would also include not just homicides, but hundreds of assaults, intimidation and what the Penal Code calls terrorist threats. A close look at the court documents in the Avenues Federal trial would reveal that there were dozens of assaults and/or threats against Blacks in Northeast but they only resulted in two homicides -- Wilson and Bowser. There was a third homicide, that of Anthony Prudhomme, but that one is still hanging and waiting for more evidence to be developed.
The attitude of the Times on this hometown issue stands in stark contrast to its attitude during the James Byrd truck dragging death in Jasper, Texas. The Times ran a handful of stories on the Northeast killings, but only after the Federal filing. The original homicides and the Superior Court cases that ensued were almost totally ignored by the Times. It only became a story when the US Attorney entered the scene.
Compare this to the 56 stories that the Times ran on the Jame Byrd homicide. The paper covered the initial homicide, the investigation, the trial and then the verdicts. That coverage was fleshed out by a number of Op-Eds and columns. Those 56 stories in the Wally files don't include the articles that ran in the Times calling for more hate crime laws in the wake of the Byrd homicide and the issue that it became in the 2000 presidential election. If those were included, the stories would run into at least 100. In re-reading some of those pieces that ran in the Times, I never came across one that said the Byrd homicide was "marginal" as Leovy states of the LA homicides. Statistically, of course, the Byrd case was far more marginal than the LA race killings. That was an isolated murder committed out of personal racial animosity, not part of a pattern of assault and intimidation sponsored and mandated by an organized criminal enterprise. Once Byrd's killers went away, they didn't have a group of associates to continue their work.
Strange are the ways of the Times. In the case of James Byrd, one racial homicide is apparently one too many. In the case of the LA race homicides, 22 is apparently not enough.